New research finds household rules and regular sleep-wake routines help kids get better and more age-appropriate sleep.

Pennsylvania State researchers found that well-established rules for getting good sleep, such as limited caffeine and a regular bedtime, led to sufficient sleep quantity and adequate sleep quality.

However, when parents and children had electronic devices on in the bedroom after bedtime, sleep deficiency was more likely.

Investigators believe rules that reduce the use of technology and media around sleep times should be a focus of public health intervention goals for sleep health.

In the study, Orfeu Buxton led a National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll to determine a current picture of sleep in families with at least one school-aged child.

The results are published in the journal Sleep Health.

The researchers evaluated U.S. households with children aged six to 17 years old through Internet-based interviews. A total of 1,103 parents or guardians of an average age of 42 completed surveys. Fifty-four percent were female.

“We were interested in parental perception of the importance of sleep duration and sleep quality, habits, and routines of the families and children, and obstacles preventing adequate sleep,” Buxton said.

According to researchers, although the majority of parents endorsed the importance of sleep, 90 percent of children did not sleep the full amount of time recommended for their age group.

Some of the primary consequences of poor sleep among children and adolescents are behavioral problems, impaired learning and school performance, sports injuries, problems with mood and emotional regulation, and a worsening of health-related issues including obesity.

Evidence also indicates that in adolescence, lack of sleep may be related to high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, suicidal behaviors, and drowsy driving.

Significant predictors of age-adjusted sufficient sleep duration — estimated conservatively as at least nine hours for ages six through 11 years and at least eight hours for ages 12 to 17 years — included parent education, regular enforcement of rules about caffeine, and whether children left technology on in their bedroom overnight.

“We have previously demonstrated the negative effect that use of light-emitting technology before bedtime can have on sleep, and now in this study we see how parental rules and routines regarding technology can influence the quantity and quality of their children’s sleep,” said Anne-Marie Chang, a co-author of the study.

Chang and colleagues recently showed that reading on an iPad before bedtime, compared to reading a print book, can impair sleep, delay circadian timing, and degrade alertness the following morning.

“An important consequence of our modern-day, 24/7 society is that it is difficult for families — children and caregivers both — to get adequate sleep,” Buxton said.

“Sleep in the family context frames sleep as involving interactions between all members of a household and interactions with the environment of the home as well as exogenous factors like work or school affecting any member.”

Poor sleep may result from a variety of reasons including the use of technology in the bedroom and complicated and busy daily schedules. Families often face conflicting work, school, social, and recreational activities as well as neighborhood noise from vehicular traffic, commercial or industrial activity, and neighbors.

Within the family dynamic, a consistent bedtime routine improves sleep, whereas television use in the bedroom generally is associated with curtailed sleep.

“Good quality and sufficient sleep are vital for children,” Buxton said. “Just like a healthy diet and exercise, sleep is critical for children to stay healthy, grow, learn, do well in school, and function at their best.”

Source: Pennsylvania State